There are two types of scores that are used in the game of golf. They are the net and gross scores. Without any explanation, these two scores may be a little confusing for newcomers.
There are important distinctions and reasons for having both gross and net scores calculated for competition and handicapping purposes which we explain below.
What Is A Gross Score In Golf
A gross score is the total number of strokes, including penalty strokes, that a player takes during a round or on a hole.
That means that if a player took 5 strokes to go from their tee shot to dropping the ball in the hole, the gross score would be 5. If the player incurred a penalty stroke at some point on the hole, the final gross score for the hole would be 6.
What Is An Adjustable Gross Score
In a competition, a player’s handicap will be calculated for that particular course. An adjustable gross score is relevant in unfinished holes, conceded strokes, unplayed holes, or equitable stroke control.
The most common reason for an adjustable gross score is equitable stroke control. That means that the adjustable gross score will more accurately reflect the skill level and consistency of a particular golfer.
If there are outlier holes where the player takes far more strokes then they usually would, their course handicap will help determine the maximum number of strokes a player can take on a given hole.
For example, a player with a handicap below 9 for 18 holes can only be marked down for a double bogey on any hole. Since that golfer, in many cases, would very rarely incur more strokes than a double bogey, their gross score is adjusted to account for their general consistency of play.
This keeps their handicap consistent as well. (Having a higher handicap can be beneficial for more skilled players in competition)
How To Calculate Gross Score In Golf
The gross score is merely calculating and adding up all of the strokes taken by a player in a particular round, including penalty strokes.
As long as you or the scorekeeper knows precisely how many strokes are necessary per penalty, you will simply add them to the number of strokes taken throughout the round.
How To Calculate Net Score In Golf
The net score is a calculation of the gross score, minus the handicap of the golfer. So, if a player with a 15 handicap shot a round with a total score of 90, their final net score would be 75.
The reason to know your net score in golf is to keep the playing field even when there are players with varying skill levels involved.
If a more skilled player is playing with a less experienced player, they can compete in a competitive game using a net score calculation.
Essentially, whoever has the best net score can win the round. Meaning that if a highly skilled player shoots a relatively weak round, while a more amateur golfer shoots an unusually good round, the amateur will likely come out on top with the net score calculation.
It is crucial to know a player’s net handicap before a round to calculate the net score. Often, clubs will have software in the clubhouse that will keep track of a player’s handicap through your average golf score.
How To Score Low Net In Golf
No matter what your handicap, there may come a time, whether in competition or casual play, where you need to score low net. Low net simply means the best, or lowest, net score among the competitors.
To score low net, you will often need to play a round better than you usually would unless all the other golfers are playing poorly that day. Which, low handicappers rarely do.
The low net score is generally a round that is unusually low for a particular golfer. Keep in mind, the higher your handicap, the more strokes you will have subtracted from your gross score to calculate your net score. The lower you can shoot with your gross score, the lower your net score will ultimately be.
Difference Between Gross And Net Score In Golf
Here is a simplified breakdown of the differences between gross and net score golf:
- The gross score is the total number of strokes played, including penalty strokes
- The net score is the gross score minus the golfer’s handicap
- The gross score is used to calculate handicap
- The net score is the result of the handicap on a particular round
- With a net score format, players of different skill levels can compete closely
- Gross scores are used in higher levels of competition such as pro events
Reading And Marking Your Scorecard
Reading a scorecard can be confusing for some. But once you understand it, you’ll be able to calculate your gross and net scores easily. Here is a breakdown of how scorecards work:
Reading the Card
- There are columns for every hole for you to mark your score tallies down for holes 1 through 9 and 10 through 18
- In the column to the left of the 1st hole will be an area to mark down the names of the players
- Each player’s score per hole should correspond with their name column
- On every scorecard, the par for the hole will be indicated above or below the hole number
- On some scorecards, there will be a handicap indicator for each hole. 1 is the most difficult, and 18 is the easiest
- Some courses will have varying handicaps per hole based on the various tee block placements
Marking the Card
- Count the gross score for each player, including penalty strokes and mark them down on the corresponding hole
- At the end of the first 9 holes, calculate the total gross score for each player. Do the same for the final 9 holes. (10-18)
- Add together the two 9 hole sums for your 18 hole total
- When calculating the net score, subtract each players handicap from the gross score
If you have any other questions or comments regarding the net and gross scores, please feel free to leave them in the section below.
Lawrence Smelser is part of the Golfible editorial staff and is a freelance golf writer. Smelser has covered the PGA Tour and most recently the 2019 Masters. He holds a journalism Bachelor's degree from Texas A&M and a Master’s journalism degree from the University of North Texas